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Letter from the Committee for Northampton County to the Committee of Safety of Virginia


That Lord Dunmore, on the 14th instant, with a party of Regulars and a number of volunteers, inhabitants of Norfolk, had attacked a party of Provincials near Kemp' s Landing, when the latter retreated with the loss of a few men killed and taken, amongst whom is Colonel Joseph Hutchings, made prisoner; that his Lordship had erected the King' s standard in Norfolk, and proclaimed all slaves


free who would join him and take up arms; that a number of about two hundred slaves immediately joined him, and were furnished with arms and — crowding to him, when the advice came from thence; that the inhabitants of Norfolk and Princess Anne had every one appeared, and taken an oath, of which the enclosed paper (No˙ 1) is a copy; insomuch, says the writer, that "treason had not one abetter in the extensive County of Princess Anne;" that on the 18th, forty volunteers and forty soldiers set off to take possession of the Great Bridge, and that one hundred men were to join them from Princess Anne, headed by Colonel Jacob Ellgood; that Colonel Willoughby had ordered in all the Princess Anne militia; and that the Governour was at the head of twelve hundred men, and it was expected in a few days would have at least two thousand, all determined to guard the passes to Norfolk and Princess Anne Counties.

This intelligence has exceedingly alarmed the Committee, as we have reason to believe Lord Dunmore will soon pay us a visit here, where we are totally unprepared at present to receive him. Our County forms a peninsula, bounded on the east by the sea, and on the west by Chesapeake Bay, with a number of rivers and navigable creeks for large tenders; our coast eighty miles in extent; our slaves numerous, being more than double the number of whites; our militia not exceeding four hundred men; our people with few arms and less ammunition, for which reason we fear few of them would attempt any resistance; and we even have reason to think, that if Lord Dunmore was to demand our persons, that the people around us would deliver us up, rather than be exposed to the fury of his soldiers and our slaves. A people acting upon such principles certainly deserve but little assistance from the publick; but we beg leave to represent to you in what manner the possession of this place would affect the common cause, and increase his Lordship' s influence. Should his Lordship land any troops here, we can have no assistance from the western shore of Virginia, while the coast is guarded by his tenders; and after making himself master of this place, he, no doubt, as he has done in Princess Anne, would compel the people to take up arms, and lead them against the adjacent Counties. In the mean time, the slaves would crowd to his standard, and his Army become formidable in number; and, what we conceive to be most material, he would have possession of near half a million of bushels of grain, by which means he might open exports to the West-Indies and the Army at Boston. In such a situation, those who have manifested their attachment to the American cause would first be exposed to his Lordship' s resentment; and we fear the more numerous body of the people would stand censured by their Country, and at a future day be exposed to its vengeance.

In this critical situation, we think it our bounden duty to inform you of our danger, and the danger to which the common interest is exposed, and to pray such immediate assistance and direction as you, in your great wisdom, shall think the importance of the case requires, to encourage the friends of America, and keep the disaffected in awe.

At the last Convention held in this Colony, a number of Minute Companies were directed to be raised in this District, but have never been completed; people in general being averse to the minute service. None of our people have ever been in actual service, and therefore have no officers of experience, on whom they can rely. Great pains have been taken to debauch their minds, and to keep them totally pacifick. Lord Dunmore' s tenders have frequently come upon our coast, and have insinuated to our fishermen, and all the lower class of people, that they had nothing to fear, that no harm was intended against them, that they never would injure any other than their Committee men and other principal people, and persuaded many, by these means, that those who advise them to take up arms are their greatest enemies; and perhaps, if matters should soon come to an extremity, we should be exposed to the fury of the people. Many gentlemen here, in short, almost every man of considerable property, is well affected to the American cause; but many forbear openly to declare their sentiments, or take an active part, till they can see some force ready to assist them, and afford a reasonable expectation of succeeding. In such a case, we have


reason to believe that some companies of regulars might be instantly raised in these two Counties of Northampton and Accomack, and that the greatest part of the militia might be drawn into service in case of alarm. But as matters at present stand, this Committee having little authority, and we should not be surprised if exports are immediately opened to the West-Indies. This the people of Norfolk have already determined upon, and that County affords great quantities of lumber. This place can, and we fear may be obliged to supply them with grain, if some effectual measures are not taken to prevent it. We have, in this critical and alarming state, in which the general interest of America, the safety of our persons, and all others here who are well affected to the cause, are so deeply interested, thought it most proper to lay this information before your honourable Board, not only as it is a matter of Continental concern, but as troops (in case you should judge it necessary to send any here) can be drawn much quicker and with more safety from the northward than from the western shore of Virginia. Until some active step is taken, this Committee must put up with several enormities; but when they can be properly adjusted or supported, your honourable Board may rely upon their acting with zeal and unanimity; and we hope, if any troops are sent, such directions may be given, that it may appear that this Committee possess the confidence of your body, and have acquitted themselves in the best manner their dangerous and critical situation would admit of.

His Lordship' s landed force, exclusive of the Norfolk and Princess Anne volunteers and the negroes, is not considerable. His naval force at present consists of four ships, from sixteen to twenty-two guns each, and a number of sloops, schooners, and boats. His small vessels are often scattered, and at a distance from the ships; and since he has attempted expeditions on shore, we learn that part of the men belonging to the vessels are often absent from their duty on board.

We impatiently wait the result of your deliberation, and in the mean time we are, with the greatest respect, your obedient humble servants.

By order of the Committee: